The small plates eatery has reopened with a three course menu to collect and reheat at home. Thomas Chalk and Cath Kane pig out.
Back when restaurants were restaurants, The Swine That Dines offered set menus of seven small sharing plates in their small, welcoming premises on North Street. Once a month they were vegetarian for the week (and were always accommodating of me not eating meat when we visited at other times). Now Jo and Stu are offering a menu for collection and – seven dishes being rather cumbersome to pack, carry, and coordinate back at home – they give a choice of two starters, two mains and two desserts, with one of the starter and main options being vegetarian. They suggest that the choices could be shared as they complement each other – or of course it allows for one person being vegetarian and the other not.
As someone whose cooking style tends towards using all the saucepans, one of the joys of a takeaway is having someone else do the preparation and washing up, and I was pleased to see that there is very little work needed to go from Swine’s precooked food to a three course meal: the oven goes on, and the temperature is the same for everything. Dishes cook in their metal takeaway trays. One saucepan is all that’s needed, and this is for water to heat a sauce that is in a sealed bag (meaning it can be washed up with a momentary rinse).
Logistics are not too difficult either: the starters just needed to sit out of the fridge long enough to come to room temperature, finished with flatbreads that heat for 5 minutes; one main cooked for 15 minutes and the other plus a shared side dish joined it for 12 minutes; and one of the desserts took over in the oven for 15 minutes. We had planned to put the dessert in while we ate our mains for super-efficient [self-]service, but portions are generous and we elected to stagger things and have a little breather.
Starters were a salt cod brandade (salt cod whipped into a kind of mousse) or fava bean puree served with a salad of asparagus and roasted and fresh tomatoes, with potato flatbreads. The saltiness of the cod and fava beans was balanced nicely with the dishes as a whole, with the tomato and asparagus salad bringing herby sunshine. The flatbreads were less heavy than might be expected, given the inclusion of potato, and served well for scooping puree and mopping tomato juices.
The main course options were less similar that the starters, with Yorkshire pork belly for meat eaters and salt-baked celeriac pancake for vegetarians. A shared side dish of potato and mushroom al forno rounded things out nicely. The pork was, I’m told, very good – we worried that being precooked and reheated risked it becoming dry, but this was not the case. The fennel, smoked garlic and bay it was cooked with had enough liquid to make a little aromatic gravy. The potato and mushroom side dish – a dauphinoise, very thin slices of potato cooked in a slab with cream – was superb, with a generous woodland kick of mushrooms bringing depth to the starchy richness.
The vegetarian pancake combined chunks of salt-baked celeriac – which was cooked to have that perfect balance of silkiness and bite that celeriac can achieve – with a nicely savoury puree that had a good hint of mushroom but which didn’t simply taste the same as the potatoes. Accompanying this was savoy cabbage with cannellini beans and garlic, and a salsa rossa sauce that brought everything together with a vinegary, chilli-infused tang. (Apologies to Jo and Stu that I could have been more artful in the way I poured this sauce on!)
Two classic desserts followed: sticky toffee pudding and lemon posset. Sticky toffee pudding, done well, manages to be both light and heavy at the same time (‘light’ referring to the airiness of the sponge, not the calorie count!), and Swine has this just right. The toffee sauce had enough dark caramel bitterness to not be cloying. We were sharing desserts, and it was only the thought of the lemon posset that allowed me to pass the toffee pudding plate over.
The posset could, for me, have had a touch more lemon, but I’m aware that my liking for sourness in desserts is greater than many people’s. The lavender shortbread that came with the posset worked well, with the floral element gauged just right – too heavy a hand with lavender and it’s like eating pot pourri or perfume.
Great food, and at just £22.50 per person, I’d say it’s good value too. Sure, it’s collection rather than delivery and you can get pizzas brought to your doorstep for a few quid, but for under £50 for both of us we had a well-judged array of flavours and a hearty feed.
Having Swine At Home isn’t the same as going out to The Swine That Dines, of course – there isn’t the whole occasion of going out, of chatting to Jo as each round of plates comes out – but until they can reopen properly, this is a very welcome alternative.
Orders open on Mondays for collection Fridays and Saturdays between 3pm and 7pm – you can order and pay online, though at the moment this system operates during limited times.
Photographs by Cath Kane.